Ten Things You Can Do For Feral or Domestic Cats
The feral cat population problem in the United States and abroad is staggering - some estimates that I have read place the number of feral cats at twice the number of domesticated cats in the United States. Most of these animals are doomed to live out an existance full of strife and pain; others will simply die because people who own companion animals are not responsible enough to take a few precautions to ensure that more ferals are not being created.
There are some simple things that you can do to help the plight of feral cats in your community. As with most improvements to a community, they start at home with personal responsibility for your companion animals.
- Have your companion animal spayed or neutered. This will decrease the urge the animal has to go outside, prevent unwanted pregnacy and is the single best thing you can do for the health of your companion animal.
- Make sure that your companion animal is properly identified. This not only includes a collar with rabies and other vaccination tags, but also a personalized tag that gives up-to-date information on you, including an address and a phone number. You may also want to look into the subcutaneous chip technology that had been perfected over the past few years. This chip, placed between the animal's shoulder blades, is a tiny microchip that identifies your animal with a serial number. The veterinarian and most of the shelters have readers for these chips and can identify you as an owner and then contact you in case of an emergency or lost animal.
- Provide your domestic cat with enough toys to keep it happy and engaged indoors. Feral cats are often the result of a domesticated cat that got away from it's owner, or the offspring of such a cat.
- Consider putting up a feeding bowl in the backyard of your home or apartment for feral cats. The cheapest catfood is a better diet than the diet of garbage and mice that a feral lives on. This is something that you may not be able to do because of your landlord, but consider a public location near trees and other vegetation to set up a feeder. A feeder can consist of something as simple as a bowl full of food or as complex as a covered shelter where food and water is dispensed.
- Consider putting up a shelter for feral cats. It could be as simple as putting up a small doghouse and straw in the bottom of the enclosure. This will provide the animal protection from the elements and warmth on those cold winter nights when the snow starts falling.
- Do not try to capture a feral cat by using your hands. This is a disaster in the making and one that I learned early on in my experience with ferals. I was bitten by a feral cat, and the animal had to be observed for ten days to ensure that it did not have rabies, and then it was destroyed by the order of local Animal Control. If you must handle a feral cat, wear heavy gloves and a long-sleved shirt. Have a carrier ready to put the animal into so that you minimize the stress on both the animal and you. Ferals are more likely to scream and fight than a domestic housecat about going into a pet carrier, so if you decide to get the animal spayed or neutered after establishing a trust with the animal, do it with as little stress to all parties concerned.
- Keep track of the ferals and the roamers in your neighborhood. Make notes about the cats that appear near your home, give them names, and note their temprament. If there is a feral colony organization in your city, this is information that will help them establish a capture plan for the animals, and then the animals will be removed and placed in a Trap-Neuter-Release program.
- If you notice that a feral cat is particularly vicious or mean, report the animal to local authorities. Some ferals are the victims of abuse and completely untrusting of humans, and will, when provoked, attack humans. You may either set up a safe trap for the animal (which Animal Control will loan you) or call Animal Control to take care of capturing the animal if there is no feral organization in your town.
- Become involved in the problem of homeless animals in your area by donating your money and your time to a local shelter. Consider adopting an animal, especially a senior citizen, from your local shelter. Once a month, buy an extra bag of food for the shelter and drop it off. Volunteer to become part of their fund-raising efforts. Look into the organizations in your city and take part in the solution of homeless animals.
- Finally, spread the word to all of your friends about the animal rights issues. Invite them to join this website and the mailing lists of the ASCPA, The National Humane Society and other organizations. Give gifts of donations to shelters in the name of a friend's deceased pet. Read about the issues of animal ownership and get involved. It is a decision you will never regret.
Brian Baker is a writer and animal rights proponent. He has been published locally and nationally, most notably in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul. Currently, Baker spends his time working with a local organization (www.safehavenforpets.org) that not only operates a shelter for animals but also does extensive work with feral cats. To exchange correspondence with the author, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.